The challenge of sustaining 'sustainable' travel during a pandemic

Posted in News on Friday, September 11th, 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic, our primary concern is ensuring the health and well-being of our Village Ways team, and everyone in our partner communities. We are pleased to report that as from early September our rural communities have been fortunate enough to escape outbreaks of the virus.

But, with no guests for 6 months, what have been the impacts on Village Ways, and our partner communities? The first thing to say is that, so far, the pandemic has largely coincided with our 'off-season' for trips to the communities. We do not generally offer trips during the summer monsoon season, and so impacts in the communities have not been felt thus far. However, there is currently no immediate prospect of any return of international travel to India, Nepal and Bhutan, and so impacts will be felt very soon. One thing we have done to mitigate any negative impacts is to develop more trips for the domestic market, and we have been actively marketing to domestic guests for some time. We are opening in a fairly limited way for domestic guests from October, and this will bring much-needed revenues for our partner communities. It will also, and this not a minor issue, help morale in the villages to welcome people again, and ease their understandable economic anxiety. We are implementing new Covid-19 protocols to ensure that our communities can welcome guests safely.

Our sustainable travel model is being tested, for sure. When we set out on to create our trips, we wanted our partner communities to treat their tourism enterprises (village homestays, the houseboat etc) as providing supplementary income streams and employment, rather than replacing traditional work such as farming and handicrafts. This approach has been vindicated during the pandemic, but many families will nonetheless feel the impacts of these lost incomes.

Similarly, our Village Ways team in India runs on a low-overheads basis, with remote working already as standard. This has helped during this time. Our team has been busy discussing plans with our partner communities, as well as developing new trips for domestic guests, and keeping the Village Ways name and ethos in the public mind as much as possible. As the world recovers, and rediscovers an appetite for travel and adventure, we really hope that everyone realises, more than ever, the value of sustainable, positive travel, and supports tourism that brings benefits to both hosts and guests.

We look forward to welcoming you back, and thank you for your support!


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